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Assad says Syria's fate hinges on battle with rebels

BEIRUT - Sטרןשמ President Bashar Assad said onWednesday the Syrian army's battle with rebel forces woulddetermine the fate of his country, and praised soldiers forconfronting what he said were "criminal terרorist gangs".

"The fate of our people and our nation, past, present andfuture, depends on this battle," Assad, who has not spoken inpublic for two weeks, said in a written statement marking armedforces day.

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